RealJobs: Austin Naughton, Special Education Teacher

Austin Naughton’s work day on Monday, February 8, 2010.

Hello Boston College Community!

My name is Austin and I’m happy to share some tidbits about my work-life with you.  For starters, I am currently a teacher in the Resource Specialist Program at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles.  Here are some links about my employer: www.lausd.net and http://www.fairfaxhs.org

This is my 4th year as a member of the Special Education department at Fairfax.  Our school is located on the border of Hollywood and West Hollywood, in a relatively trendy section of Los Angeles – for you Boston-area folks, think of it as combination of Coolidge Corner and Newbury Street:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairfax_District,_Los_Angeles,_California

Bottom line, there are lot of “distractions” in this area for students that might prefer to NOT be attending classes:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melrose_Avenue

Today is Monday, February 8th, the first day of the spring academic semester.  Final exams occurred last week and our final grades for students are due on Wednesday.  Students did not attend school today; we faculty members had what is termed a “Pupil-Free Day.”

I tend to be an “early to bed, early to rise” type of person, so I sent my alarm for 4 a.m. and was eating breakfast and checking email around 4:30.  I updated some course materials for a new class I’ll be co-teaching and forwarded several documents to colleagues so that we could print them at school.  I replied via email to a parent about her child’s learning needs.  Around 6:25 a.m., I informed my partner that I was getting ready to go.  He knows that means I’ll be on-the-road in about 30 to 45 minutes.

Circa 7:30, I was on my bike, weaving along the pretty streets of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood for my 4-mile commute to work.  We have to sign-in at the main office by 7:50 a.m. or else we get a pink-dot on our time card.  This is the first school where I have had to sign-in each morning and I can understand why we do it because we have more than 150 staff members spread around a big campus.  I hate getting those pink-dots, so I try to not be tardy!

I went directly to the Special Education Office to do some printing and chatted with the Special Education Coordinator, Supervising Assistant, and other RSP Teachers.  I put my bike in the RSP office and we went downstairs for our 8 a.m. faculty meeting.  Thanks to the famous Canter’s Deli for the donated food: http://cantersdeli.com/ (I hope it’s okay to express such gratitude here on this blog?)

Our Principal greeted us with mandatory announcements about policies such as the need to report suspicions of child abuse and the prohibition of corporal punishment.  Our 4 Assistant Principals spoke about other topics, such as roll books, grades, accreditation process, and the process for considering alternate bell schedules.  The Title 1 Coordinator and Literacy Coordinator each gave presentations about their respective projects, including the Single Plan for Student Achievement and the Sustained Silent Reading period we have daily.  Other staff member members made announcements and questions/answers were sprinkled amid the various topics.  Our Chapter Chairperson from United Teachers of Los Angeles (http://utla.net/) spoke about the upcoming union meeting on Thursday.  During such times of budgetary constraints, we educators need to pay attention to our contracts given all the changes that have been occurring around the district and the state.  To conclude the meeting, the aforementioned Literacy Coordinator presented his latest version of “Top 10” listings — in a past life, he was probably a stand-up comedian.  It is nice to have someone with such great energy and humor as a colleague!

After the meeting, a group of us met to discuss plans for our next meeting.  I then went up to the 3rd floor RSP Office and we 4 RSP Teachers met with the Supervising Assistant to plan schedules for our Adult Assistants for the semester.  At 11:00, a few of us went downstairs to a computer lab to learn about using electronic grade-books.  I left that meeting before it ended so that I could join colleagues for a gathering of Lead Teachers and Co-Lead Teachers for our school’s Small Learning Communities.  Fairfax High School now has one Visual Arts Magnet Program and 5 SLCs.  I am the Co-Lead Teacher for the Academy of Media and Performing Arts.  We had numerous agenda items to tackle as we made plans for the semester and next year.

Circa 12:30, I went upstairs with the Math Department Chairperson so that I could meet my new co-teacher.  She is replacing a colleague who has retired and we will begin teaching Geometry together tomorrow.  Since I already know most of the students, I am going to prepare the seating chart as part of my homework prior to class tomorrow morning.

Around 1:00, I jogged over to a bungalow classroom on the edge of campus for a meeting of our SLC, more easily referred to as AMPA.  (Are you having fun with all of these abbreviations?  I hope that I’m not overwhelming y’all with too many details and jargon!)  Our Assistant Principal led the meeting and we had group conversation about a variety of topics.  After the meeting concluded, I walked back to the main building with the Lead Teacher and returned to the RSP Office.  I made plans with my colleagues as we reviewed student rosters and got ready for tomorrow.  We are also planning a dinner party for our co-teachers as a way to thank them for collaborating with us Special Educators.

Around 2 p.m., I returned to the 2nd floor and spoke with some Math teachers.  I gave a draft seating chart to the colleague with whom I’ll be co-teaching Algebra tomorrow.  The new semester will begin with 3 new co-teaching experiences for me.  We RSP teachers spend the majority of our working days in other teachers’ classrooms as we provide support services to students with specialized learning needs in their general education classes.  I will explain more about that in later entries.

I sorted through some furniture in the hallway and found a podium that I think we can use in my new classroom.  (Yes, I am due to move rooms, too!  Lots of changes this semester.)  By 2:35, I was back in my current classroom and I got ready to depart by boarding my bike and heading to UCLA, which is located about 7 miles west of Fairfax High School:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_California,_Los_Angeles

My destination was the offices of the UCLA Extension, where I will be an instructor during the spring term.  I will be teaching a World Geography course through the Pathway Program: https://www3.uclaextension.edu/index.cfm?href=/departmentalPages/index.cfm&department=/pathway/index.cfm

I met with a staff member in the payroll department to submit employment forms and then spoke with people who work in the Pathway program.  I am excited to have this opportunity to work at the post-secondary level.  I think it will help me be better high school teacher so that I help my students as they make plans for life after Fairfax High School!

By 4 p.m., I was back on my bike and stopped at the supermarket to get groceries.  While preparing dinner, I spoke with my Department Chairperson (by phone) to make plans for our work together this semester.  I also spoke with a friend from Boston College who is now a Guidance Counselor in Washington, D.C.  She has two days off from school due to the winter weather in that region!  I did not mention to her that I was riding my bike on this sunny afternoon here in Los Angeles!

It is now 8:41 p.m. and I have some more school-work to do, including email messages with colleagues and the parents of students.  I hope to be in bed by about 9 p.m. so that I can wake up early tomorrow.  I am due to meet a colleague at around 7 a.m. so that we can distribute forms to our colleagues.  If you have read this far, I hope that I have not exterminated too many of your brain cells with all the above details. :)

I have been working in the field of education since graduating from B.C. in 1995 and I find it to be a rewarding profession in many ways.  It is exciting to anticipate new classes tomorrow — I will probably know most of the students I encounter in my 5 classes (Algebra 1A, Geometry A, two sections of Language Skills, and 1 new class titled “Occupational Training Workshop), but there will be some new students, too.  I am optimistic about my new co-teaching relationships, though I will admit that it is an interesting experience to be working in the classrooms of other educators.  At B.C., I initially studied to be a teaching of Social Studies at the secondary level.  Sharing the leadership of classroom activities with other adults can be both wonderful and challenging.  Hopefully, all will go well so that we can provide the best learning opportunities possible for each student.

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